Understanding Mohs Micrographic Surgery: A Step-by-Step Process

 Understanding Mohs Micrographic Surgery: A Step-by-Step Process

Getting surgery of any kind can be a little daunting, but when you add cancer to the mix it only gets more worrying. The good news? Mohs micrographic surgery is incredibly safe, and it’s a highly effective way to remove skin cancer while preserving healthy skin.

Step 1: Diagnosis

When you first discover you have skin cancer, you might be at a loss for what to do. Don’t worry, your doctor knows! Cancers like squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and in some cases melanoma are all highly treatable with Mohs. You’ve already taken the first step toward curing your skin cancer.

It won’t be long until you can go into Mohs surgery, because time is of the essence. Since Mohs doesn’t require general anesthesia, it can be performed not long after cancer is discovered. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen the same day, but Mohs is a relatively quick process once it’s determined to be the right path.

Step 2: Preparing for Mohs

There isn’t much preparation that you need to do before undergoing Mohs surgery. In some cases you don’t even need to wear a surgical gown. If the cancer is on your face or head, you can wear the clothes you would as if it were a normal day.

Mohs surgery can vary in length, but the goal is to remove cancer in one day. Still, in some cases melanoma might call for a longer treatment. That’s because with melanoma, doctors may perform what's called 'Slow Mohs,' so named because it takes more time to analyze the removed skin. Be sure to ask your dermatologist for a time estimate and prepare accordingly.

Step 3: Undergoing Mohs

Your surgeon (who may not be your usual dermatologist) will first mark the spot for removal. This is a standard practice for any surgery. They will then apply a local anesthetic to the treatment area, and give it time to take effect. Since they will only be removing thin layers of skin, pain and discomfort during the procedure should be minimal or nonexistent.

The surgeon will then cut the first layer of affected skin and have it analyzed by someone on site, where the skin will be carefully inspected for cancer cells. If cancer is detected, this process is repeated until analysis shows no signs of cancer.

Depending on the depth of the surgery, and how large the lesion or mole was, you may require stitches or a skin graft. Oftentimes, since not much skin is removed, patients don't even need stitches. The wound will simply be allowed to heal on its own with minimal risk for scarring.

Step 4: After Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Mohs surgery, if conducted for the first time on skin cancer that was detected early, has a 99% cure rate. For cancer that has recurred, either in the same place or another location that number is a bit lower, but still very high at 94%.

You'll return for a follow-up shortly after getting Mohs, where your doctor will ensure that the cancer has not grown back. Follow your dermatologist-recommended wound care regimen and the chance of scarring is reduced. But, a scar is a small price to pay for the most effective, least invasive way to cure your skin cancer.

If you suspect you have skin cancer, or are already preparing for Mohs micrographic surgery, remember that you're in good hands. Reach out to a Northeast Dermatology Associates office today in order to check on any skin condition that might have you worried.

Request an Appointment